“We have to plant and produce all crops and products; we need to increase our productive capabilities in order to avoid relying on importing from external markets in the time being and, consequently, import inflation,” Maait stressed in a meeting with the heads of national media and press authorities and editors-in-chief of national and private newspapers and media outlets.
The attendees included Karam Gabr, the head of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR); Abdel-Sadek El-Shorbagy, the head of the National Press Authority (NPA); and Diaa Rashwan, the head of the Journalists Syndicate and chairman of the State Information Service (SIS) attended the meeting.
Egypt imports 80 percent of its wheat needs from two main markets — 50 percent from Russia and 30 percent from Ukraine.
The Russian war in Ukraine threatens to disrupt the global wheat trade and push prices upwards, as the two countries are among the top wheat producers in the world.
The spike of wheat prices in international markets is expected to increase the cost of Egypt's imports of wheat - a strategic commodity for millions in the country - by around EGP 12 to 15 billion, Maait told Bloomberg Asharq on Sunday.
Egyptian farmers are set to raise their production of wheat by two million tonnes to 5.5 million tonnes this season to compensate for disruption in the global trade, according to Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Mohamed Moselhi.
The wheat harvest season in Egypt starts in mid-April.
"Egypt - as part of the world - is impacted by international crises. But the Egyptian economy has become morecapable of flexibly dealing with internal and external shocks. And as we succeeded in controlling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on growing markets like ours, we can also overcome these new difficulties," Maait stressed to the attendees.
Maait also revealed that the government may resort to revising the targets of the upcoming FY2022/23 — which starts on 1 July — as a result of the repercussions of the war in Ukraine on the global and local economy.
Egypt is targeting a 5.7 percent GDP growth in FY2022/23 and six percent in FY2024/25, which would exceed the country’s pre-pandemic growth level of 5.6 percent FY2019/20.
Moreover, the government plans to increase the initial budget surplus to reach two percent, up from the 1.5 percent targeted in the current FY2021/22, and to reduce the overall budget deficit to 6.1 percent in FY2022/23 with the aim of decreasing the rate to 5.1 percent in FY2024/25.
Maait said that Egypt is expected to record a budget deficit of 6.7 percent in FY2021/22, adding that the government could revisit this target in light of the ongoing challenges.
Furthermore, the government is targeting lowering the gross debt to GDP ratio to below 90 percent in FY2022/23, and down to 82.5 percent by the end of FY2024/25, as well as lowering the debt service to less than 30 percent of the total budget expenditure in FY2022/23.
On wider social policy, Maait told the attendees “We continue to increase spending on health and education as the main pillar of human development.”
"Egypt is keen to expand the application of the new Comprehensive Health Insurance system in the governorates to alleviate the financial burden of dealing with illness off citizens’ shoulders, the minister added.
“Our experience has succeeded in Port Said and Luxor and during the coming period, we are ready to extend the umbrella of the new system to Ismailia, Suez, and Aswan,” he affirmed.